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The design draws both its name and exterior geometry from the position of the sun.

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Inside Jeanne Gang’s Solstice on the Park

The striking apartment tower is a future Hyde Park icon in the making

Although Chicago’s apartment-fueled construction boom has been most concentrated in neighborhoods like River North, South Loop, and Fulton Market District, its arguably most interesting new rental building can be found several miles south in Hyde Park.

Enter Solstice on the Park, a 250-foot tower perched at the northern edge of historic Jackson Park—the site of the Museum of Science and Industry, the former White City of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, and the upcoming Barack Obama Presidential Center.

Compared to the boxy rectangular forms and the cookie-cutter floorplans of its many rental tower peers, Solstice on the Park offers a refreshingly different take on the Chicago apartment building. The angular design from hometown starchitect Jeanne Gang attempts to bridge form and function—in this case a push towards solar efficiency.

Curbed Chicago stopped by the recently completed high-rise to check out its unusual faceted design, common spaces, residential units, and of course, its sweeping front-row views of one of Chicago’s most iconic green spaces.

Solstice is hard to miss from the park.

Solstice on the Park hasn’t had the easiest time getting off the ground, it has been in the works since 2006. Then the project went into hibernation as it weathered the Great Recession and reemerged in 2016 with a revised plan that swapped its 113 condo units for 250 rental units. It officially broke ground at 1616 E. 56th Street in early 2017 and welcomed its first tenants in April of this year.

Approaching the building from the park, the first thing that stands out is the geometric glass and metal facade. Solstice sports a patterned, modular design that alternates between vertical and 72-degree angles. While seemingly arbitrary, the geometry actually mirrors the angle of the sun during the summer solstice—a feature that increases shade and energy savings during the summer and gives the development its name. In the winter, the layout provides passive solar heating when the sun is lower in the sky.

The tower’s simultaneously muscular and elegant exterior extends all the way to the ground as one cohesive architectural expression with no parking podium or tacked-on retail space. Instead, the residents can stash their cars in an understated brick parking structure tucked away just north of the tower along Cornell Avenue.

Inside Solistice’s bright ground floor, guests are greeted at a front desk flanked by two communal spaces for residents. To the left is the library, a transitional space set up for chess or group meetings around a large wood table reclaimed from a tree that stood on the site. On the right is a resident lounge with a big screen TV, game room, additional seating areas, access to the building’s fitness center and an under-construction outdoor deck where the tower’s hoist once stood.

The tower’s colorful ground-floor amenities include a library, lounge with games such as shuffleboard and a pool table, and a fitness center.

The communal spaces feature jewel-toned decor with a midcentury modern vibe and wooden vertical wall slats that extend into portions of the ceiling. “The wood was picked to soften the zinc and glass of the exterior,” explained Peter Cassel of MAC Properties, the building’s developer.

The residential levels are reached via a trio of elevators lined with three distinct photographic panoramas of Lake Michigan at day, twilight, and dusk. Hallways feel wide-set and sophisticated with the apartment numbers topping each door clearly illuminated from below.

Stepping into one of Solstice on the Park’s model apartments can be a gasp-worthy experience as Jackson Park immediately fills your vision. The treetops seem even bigger and closer through the long, sloping floor-to-ceiling glass—a feature that also makes the already generous headroom feel much more expansive.

Jackson Park in all of its glory. The future Obama Presidential Center will rise 235 feet—a mere 15 feet shy of Solstice—along S. Cornell Drive (pictured right).

While the park is clearly the star, units facing east, north, and west are still treated to respective views of Lake Michigan, downtown’s skyline, and the University of Chicago’s Hyde Park Campus.

The units themselves are quite nice with quartz countertops, stainless appliances, full-size washers and dryers, and optional home automation features. The living spaces are roomy, open, and unsurprisingly bright. Bedrooms, although on the comparatively smaller side, are rewarded with super-sized closets.

Big units with big views don’t necessarily come cheap. Monthly rents start north of $2,000 for a one-bedroom unit and can reach as high as nearly $5,400 for a three-bedroom, park-facing corner unit on a higher floor. The building is currently offering incentives such as reduced rates on select units and, in some cases, two months free rent on full-price apartments.

“Hyde Park has been in competition with the South Loop as a housing choice for years,” said Cassel. “We’ve always been disappointed the pricing here was at a discount because from an amenity, cultural, and lakefront access perspective, we think that its a better neighborhood. This area never had the same caliber of newer buildings until we opened City Hyde Park and, now, Solstice on the Park. We are charging full South Loop rents and the buildings are filling up.”

The tower is a fitting addition to the northern streetwall of Jackson Park as well as the greater Hyde Park neighborhood. With units more than 50 percent leased since the spring and the number continuing to grow, Solstice on the Park is poignant reminder that in the competitive world of Chicago apartments, fortune can still favor the bold over the bland.

Solstice on the Park

5540 South Cornell Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637 Visit Website
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